Author: whynotbeme

I am an accomplished writer, editor, actor, musician, and personal trainer.

“U Mirin Bro?” Peer Pressure In the Gym (Stop Comparing!)

My most recent Youtube video discusses the feeling of being intimidated by other people in the gym who are in a more advanced stage of fitness than you are. By “more advanced,” I mean that their “gains” are bigger than your “gains,” or that their lifts are notably heavier than your own. Even as a non-beginner, it’s possible to get this feeling. Learning to deal with it is just one of the many lessons that are learned over a long period of living a fitness lifestyle, or even a bodybuilding lifestyle.

I believe, and I don’t think I’m alone in this, that many folks start going to the gym in order to feel better about themselves, or to bolster self-confidence that they may already have. What comes with that, though, is a feeling of having something to prove and wanting to prove it to everyone around you. Therefore anyone doing better than you poses a threat to your ego, and everyone who’s behind you poses a gratification of your ego.

This is no way to live. Insecurity and feelings of being not good enough are generally not very effective motivators for the majority of people I have seen, worked with, talked to, or read about. They can definitely be short-term motivators, sparking that initial hunger for growth and improvement, but generally something more positive has to take over down the line.

Even if something does, though, such feelings of intimidation and/or inadequacy can still creep up. The gym life never gets easy, including the psychological part, but that’s part of what makes it all rewarding.

So what do we do to try to derive some “reward” from this adverse feeling? All it takes is remembering why you came to the gym in the first place: to feel better about yourself, to improve yourself, to meet some goal (and if you don’t have a specific goal, it might be a good idea to come up with one).

Here are some completely random examples: be able to run for the bus without getting winded, deadlift 300 pounds, perform a semi-planche pushup, run a mile in under 10 minutes, bench-press your bodyweight, eliminate lower-back or knee pain, visible upper abs, run a 5k, lose such-and-such amount of weight in such-and-such a period of time, track ALL of your food on MyFitnessPal for one month, achieve a regular sleep schedule, eliminate processed food from your diet…..there are so many other tasty ones. Notice how none of these resemble anything like, “have bigger arms than that random guy over there,” or “have a cuter butt than that girl doing Smith-machine sumo squats with a calf-raise.”

Most of the time, we end up at the gym because we want to improve ourselves and feel better about ourselves, not because we want to be better than other people, or because we want other people’s approval. I mean, obviously some people do; some people thrive on competition and like to be the best in whatever they are doing, while some people have so many issues with self-esteem and identity that they basically only do things for other people’s approval, and are never happy with themselves or their accomplishments.

So what I’m really saying is that, for most people, these shouldn’t be the main reasons. Sure, these can both serve as secondary motivators, which, when they are met or fulfilled, offer a significantly positive feeling. But this feeling should be seen as a perk of having worked on yourself so effectively, so sustainably, not the end unto itself.

So when you find yourself seeing where other people have gotten and thinking you’ll never get there, just remind yourself of this: those people, the ones you’re admiring right now, were once in your position. They were once behind everyone else, but they didn’t let that stop them. Maybe they even let that motivate them, or inspire them, which is based on maintaining a sense of humility coupled with the belief that “I’m worth it.” Now that’s a winning strategy.

Bottom line: don’t tie the state of your own self-esteem to someone else’s progress. It should only be tied to where you are, what you’re doing, and what you’re working towards. So stay humble, stay grounded, stay focused, and stay the course.

Tell Me Why I Care…..about Free Radicals and Antioxidants

This article also appears here on MyProtein’s blog site, The Zone.

What are “Free Radicals”? Why are we told to fear them, and why, after many decades (for proof, watch the James Bond movie, “Never Say Never Again” from 1983), do they keep coming up as something to be not just avoided but eliminated entirely from our bodies and diets?

I’m here to tell you that this fear of free radicals is not just mere hype, or a marketing ploy (although it has been used as one). As I’m about to explain, free radicals pose a legitimate threat to your immediate, medium-term, and long-term health and longevity.

Why? A free radical is an atom in your body that is in a specific non-typical state. Of course, it’s first necessary to understand what the *typical* state of an atom is, and then we can understand the threat posed by an atom in the non-typical state of being a free radical.

First, think of an area of your body, say, the muscles in your thigh. Those muscles are made of cell. Cells are made of various types of molecules, and molecules are comprised of at least one atom.

Atoms, in turn, contain at least one element (such as oxygen, carbon, et cetera). Chemical bonds join these elements together to form the atoms and molecules. Each atom consists of a nucleus, neutrons, protons, and electrons.

Still with me? Okay, good.

The electrons surround the nucleus in two “shells”: an outer shell, typically consisting of eight electrons, and an inner shell, consisting of two electrons. The chemical reactions these electrons produce create the bonds between atoms that hold the molecules together so that they remain stable.

Generally, the atom will move electrons between its inner and outer shells as needed, or share electrons with other atoms, in order to maintain stability. When this happens, both atoms (the ones that are sharing electrons) are considered stable. But, when an atom’s outer shell is reduced to one electron, it essentially becomes so “desperate” to replace its electrons that it will actually steal electrons from other atoms.

This is a Free Radical: an atom whose weak chemical bonds result in an electron-deprived state that compels it to steal electrons from other atoms and destabilize them. This results in a sort of “domino effect.” The harmful destabilization of cells proceeds from one atom to another, destabilizing atoms and the molecules to which they are attached.

The most common type of free radical is the oxygen atom. Hence, free radical damage is generally referred to as “oxidation” or “oxidative damage”: the process of an oxygen atom stealing electrons from neighboring atoms. To reiterate, this is the effect of the atom attempting to stabilize itself, and it results in the destabilization of other atoms.

So this is the danger that free radicals pose: disrupting the stability of healthy tissues. Remember, we are talking about your thigh muscles, the atoms that comprise the proteins, DNA, cell membranes, and other components of that tissue and every other tissue throughout the human body. Oxidation of the cell’s atoms can lead to their malfunction and eventual cell-death, promoting disease, nerve damage, inflammation, and poor health. And free radical damage accumulates as we age.

Some free radicals are created naturally in the body and serve healthful functions. So when we talk about “fighting free radicals” for health purposes, we are not talking about eliminating them entirely. Rather, we are talking about limiting their creation as a result of our own behaviors: the foods we eat, the activities in which we partake, and the environments we absorb.

Here is a list of environmental factors that have been shown to cause the production of free radicals:

  • Daily stress – emotional and physical
  • Ozone depletion
  • Air pollutants
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Inflammation
  • Radiation (which includes UV rays from the sun)
  • Industrial chemicals
  • Processed foods
  • Drugs – recreational and prescription

As you can see, many of these environmental factors involve the inhalation/ingestion of toxins and impurities. In general, when we are not getting enough oxygen from our environment—which is inevitable amid increased environmental pollution and chest-breathing high-stress lifestyles—our body compensates in ways that have been shown to produce free radicals, by breaking down the chemical bonds of cells containing oxygen in order to “raid” them for their oxygen molecules.

A little bit of this is fine, and healthy. But a lot is definitely bad news.

Bottom line: inadequate oxygen causes free radicals to form. The answer, however, is not to schlep an oxygen tank around everywhere you go. (Doing that would probably be stressful. Stress causes free radicals! OH NO!) Of course, if you can limit your exposure to such things as industrial chemicals, processed foods, and air pollution, go for it. But the first response is to increase your intake of antioxidants.

Now, what is an antioxidant? Antioxidants are scientifically defined as “a substance that reduces damage due to oxygen, such as that caused by free radicals” (MedicineNet). More specifically, an antioxidant is comprised of atoms with excess electrons that it can “donate” to stabilize the free radical and stop the domino effect in its tracks.

This is why antioxidants are associated with slowing the aging process: because they slow or prevent cell damage, such as that which occurs with aging (i.e. a lifetime of exposure to items on the above list). And they all occur predominantly in plants.

Certain vitamins, specifically A, C, and E, and folic acid are considered the “antioxidant vitamins.” These vitamins are not produced naturally by the body and so must be consumed through diet or supplementation.

“Antioxidant enzymes,” on the other hand, are produced naturally by the body, but rely on specific minerals, which act as “cofactors,” for their production. These minerals include selenium, iron, zinc, copper, and magnesium.

The last group of antioxidants is comprised of the “antioxidant phytochemicals.” The prefix “phyto-” means “relating to plants,” and indeed, the four subgroups of phytochemicals can only be found in plants. These subgroups include the Carotenoids, Flavonoids, Allyl Sulfides, and Polyphenols, one or two of which maybe you’ve heard about as other “hot-button” things that “you need.” Well, now you know why.

Dark red fruits, like blueberries, raspberries, pomegranates, goji berries, and blackberries, dark green veggies like spinach, kale, broccoli, watercress, and swiss chard, root veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets, beans such as kidney beans, small red beans, and pinto beans, and nuts such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and pistachios, are all rich in at least one antioxidant group, not to mention in possession of numerous other health benefits.

So, if you want to reduce inflammation, reduce the risk of chronic disease, and be sure that your tissues are functioning efficiently, strongly, and robustly, make antioxidants a reason for eating!

The following websites were used as source material for this article.

http://www.healthchecksystems.com/antioxid.htm

http://antioxidantsdetective.com/causes-of-free-radicals.html

http://bsherman.net/freeradicals.htm

http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=11291

http://www.joybauer.com/food-articles/leafy-green-vegetables.aspx

http://www.nutrex-hawaii.com/types-of-antioxidants

Making Better Eating Decisions in the Midst of Stress

stress

Why do we “Stress Eat”? In times of stress—looming deadlines, family emergencies, interpersonal conflict, or just everyday hassles—our endocrine system secretes certain hormones that directly relate to our evolutionary “Fight or Flight” instinct [1].

In modern, post-sabretooth tiger times, this instinct translates into the body wanting to fortify itself by breaking down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for easy access to quick energy. As explained quite succinctly on PsychologyToday,

The escalating levels of cortisol released in chronic stress usher the excess calories straight to your abdomen, where they get deposited as fat. By virtue of its location, abdominal fat has privileged access to the liver. That allows it to be quickly mobilized for energy. [2]

This, of course, clearly illustrates the role that stress can play in increasing abdominal bodyfat due to the effects of heightened cortisol production. The key to minimizing stress eating, then, lies in identifying the situations that cause stress and the impulse to “feed” it, and redirecting that impulse into some healthful activity.

In doing so, our aim is not to deny or reject the fight-or-flight instinct itself (just as we do not seek to eliminate cortisol production entirely) but rather to accommodate it in a way of our own choosing, and not as our caveperson forebearers would have accommodated it. There are, after all, distinct differences between physical hunger and emotional hunger.

It would be easy for me to say, “just avoid stressful situations,” when literally everything in our lives can be a source of stress. So the question of how to address stress becomes less about how to eliminate it entirely (although that would obviously be good too), and instead about how to redirect our response to it.

Now that we understand a little better what stress is and how to reduce it from a scientific standpoint, let’s look at it from an emotional one. A stress-reaction is an expression of something. Stress-eating is your body’s attempt to give expression to your stress. In other words, it is an outlet. While it is not an inherently bad form of expression, developing a habit of stress-eating can be self-destructive, just as any habitual outlet (impulse-buying, TV watching, websurfing, social networking, etc) can ultimately become counterproductive to your sense of well-being.

Going H.A.M. on a strawberry-and-Nutella crepe or a pint of gelato (two of my old standbys) is a coping mechanism for dealing with stress, but it should be seen as an extremely short-term one. In the medium- and longer-term, it reveals itself as a compounder of that stress in terms of how it makes us feel about ourselves. Many of us are familiar with that groan-filled moment when we realize we’ve eaten a lot of something we know is bad for us. We may even feel sick to our stomachs. Such mindless, binge-like behavior reinforces all of our negative feelings about ourselves, and further delays any chance of turning one’s life around.

It is not constructive to endlessly and absolutely condemn this behavior as that of a weak human being. Everyday, you do the best you can to make your life liveable, or, if you are a parent or caregiver, to even make the lives of others liveable too. You get up everyday, do the things that you choose to do, (or, more likely, that are required of you), go to bed at night, and repeat this process in some form everyday. I don’t care if you are an emergency-room surgeon or if you have fallen into a rut of inactivity; simply maintaining this routine of “living” takes great personal strength, to say nothing of whatever it is in particular that you are doing all day.

In addition, you feel you want to improve yourself, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be reading this. Making THAT decision takes strength too.

You are not weak, so let’s just throw that excuse directly in the trash. Rather, the problem is that some of the ways you express your stress have solidified into habits of your daily routine. While they may temporarily help cope with the stress, they aren’t constructive for your fitness or health goals. For instance, you don’t like the fact that you get winded trying to run and catch a bus or lift a heavy object, or that you don’t feel confident going shirtless at a pool party.

Stress-eating and sedentary behavior (“vegging out”) are completely counterproductive to correcting these issues. Though perhaps routines such as these once served a purpose, they now seem to control you completely, and take away your feeling of having a choice. This feeling is especially compounded if you know that eating a certain food or behavior is bad for you but you do it anyway; even if you KNOW you will regret it, even if you HEAR a voice saying “no” and another one saying, “but ‘yes’ just feels so much better!”

There are two reasons you can’t change this habit, neither of which is related to weakness. A) the root cause of the bad habit has not been addressed, and B) you don’t have any healthy alternatives for expressing that stress.

Therefore, the shorter-term solution lies in identifying these habits in the moment they are happening and mindfully redirecting your desires away from something destructive and towards something creative, for example:

  1. having a healthy snack (fruit is perfect if you’re having a sugar craving)
  2. drinking water (dehydration can exacerbate stress)
  3. reaching out to a friend or relative or your fitness professional for support
  4. going for a walk or run
  5. punching a punching bag (not the wall)
  6. drawing a picture and going WAY outside the lines
  7. doing something fun that’s not Facebooking, or
  8. choosing to undertake or continue a project (this is where having a hobby can be helpful)

The point is to be able to identify the stress and respond to it in the manner of your choosing. Ideally, you will get to a point where, in the midst of the stress, you express it by dealing directly with the source of the stress, whether altogether or a piece at a time. But being able to do that is dependent on adhering to this longer-term solution:

To identify the root causes of the stress. If you are a procrastinator, stop procrastinating. Have a to-do list of the things that stress you out the most. Deal with one major stressor per day to the best of your ability. Then, when each of these has been dealt with, you won’t waste any more mental energy stressing out about them. You will be free of them (at least for the rest of the month, in the case of bills). This helps immensely in cultivating an “I can do it!” attitude that can translate very well to improving your health and exercise routines.

Once you have dealt with the stressors, the energy that would normally be spent on stress can go towards taking better care of yourself: better, more regular exercise, better sleep, more mindful (and therefore rewarding) food choices. This is how dealing with stress in a creative and positive way—a way that produces results instead of delaying them like procrastination—can improve your overall health. Let’s get that blood pressure and heart-rate back down!

Again, it is certainly easy for me to say, “just stop procrastinating! It’s that simple!” I would never contend that changing one’s life is simple. But I hope just being offered the chance to think about stress, habits, and alternatives in this way might help you initiate the process of changing your own life for the better.

It doesn’t happen overnight, and some failures or slipups are practically inevitable. But all things worth doing carry some risk of failure, and feeling better about yourself—having a happier, healthier, more empowered and less-stress filled life, and spending your time in a manner of your own choosing—is definitely a cause worth believing in.

works cited

[1]: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201301/cortisol-why-the-stress-hormone-is-public-enemy-no-1

[2]: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200311/stress-and-eating

Preworkouts Blunt your Appetite, and supplement rant

As I talk about in my recent YouTube video, there is plenty of scientific and anecdotal evidence indicating that caffeine can suppress one’s appetite, maybe not for 100% of everyone but for a lot of people. Hey, here’s a study now:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23671022

When using preworkouts such as Jack3d, 1MR, Hyde, C4, or any other preworkout containing caffeine, it’s important to keep this in mind, since if you are trying to maintain a caloric surplus for the purpose of increasing muscle mass, having a reduced appetite is definitely an annoying and unnecessary disadvantage. Also, the caffeine can mess up your sleep quality, sleep being also sort of important for making gains and overall health. Supplements should be helping us move forward, not acting in a self-defeating way that holds us back.

GET READY FOR A RANT!

The tendency in the supplement industry is to advocate that “more is better,” the obvious reason being that the sooner your scoop hits the bottom of that empty protein tub, it’s time to buy more. The same messaging generally goes for vitamins, antioxidants, fat burners, joint health pills, nootropics, nitric oxide boosters, creatine, glutamine, beta-alanine, arginine, threonine, citrulline, taurine (gosh, there are a lot of “ines” that we supposedly should be taking for that extra edge), etc. Supplement companies would dance a jig and give a 20 to a poor person if every gymrat bought all of these supplements and took them until they were gone, and proceeded to continue to do so. Of course, the marketing of preworkouts also fits this pattern.

“If you’re not taking preworkout, you’re missing out an some serious EDGE! Being totally cracked out on stimulants is the KEY TO SUCCESS BRO!!!”

Now we all know that sometimes pumping some iron or going H.A.M. on the treadmill is not exactly the first thing you’d like to be doing at a given time. Preworkouts can serve as “liquid courage,” to help you overcome however you may be “feeling that day” and “just DO it:” just get up from the couch, or out of your parked car in the gym parking lot, and start hitting those weights, HARD. Especially squats.

And that’s fine. In a perfect world, men and women wouldn’t need drugs to help us force ourselves to do things we don’t want to do; we would “just do it” because we feel motivated, clearheaded, and confident enough to do it, armed with the twin weapons of self-esteem and self-awareness. We would be convinced that liftings hundreds of pounds of weight, just to lose fat and increase muscle size (often mostly for aesthetic reasons), was a self-evidently valuable activity, and that any feelings of being “not good/big enough” are because WE say so, not society.

But this ain’t no perfect world. And we’re not necessarily 100% convinced. If we were, there would be no need for preworkouts or 90% of the other “sports supplements” that we spend our money on even when we know, deep down, that any evidence of their effectiveness largely comes down to belief: if you believe creatine works for you, fantastic. Sure, there are scientific studies that creatine works, but there are also studies that smoking kills, yet there are still a decent number of octogenarian smokers around who, somehow, didn’t die. So science is secondary to how it makes you feel.

When it comes to exercise, nothing produces program adherence as much as seeing concrete results, whether it’s five pounds lost on the scale weight or 5 pounds gained on the bench press. So seeing results while taking supplements can produce the FEELING that the supplement itself caused the results. In a way, it did: if taking the supplement actually got you to work out, in ANY capacity, then indeed it did sort of produce the results. But it doesn’t take a Ph. D to see that that is a correlation, not a causation.

I remember in my early days of fitness, my gym buddies and I had a great pre-workout ritual: pill bottles rattling, shaker bottles sloshing, blenders blending at high speed….it was a symphony of soon-to-be massive gains! And I did see gains, I did see results. But guess what? That routine was not sustainable for a host of reasons: supplements are too expensive, need to be taken too often (for example, Epozine NT02 by BSN: four thick-ass pills FOUR TIMES A DAY ON AN EMPTY STOMACH? I was trying to gain weight, when am I going to have an empty stomach?!), have weird side effects (often digestive in nature), and swallowing all the pills in an Animal Pak is cool the first ten times, and then it’s just annoying and kinda foul.

Eventually, I started to lose momentum in my gym routine. Every so often I’d be all like, “ok NOW I’m going to jump back into my 5-day per week routine, and here’s $150 worth of powders and pills to make sure I do!!!!” But it didn’t take. I later realized it was because I was exercising for the wrong reasons, and hence I was buying supplements for the wrong reasons too. Rather than for health’s sake, I just wanted to “get bigger,” largely because the world was telling me that I wasn’t big enough. In reality, I wasn’t; I didn’t feel capable of defending myself or others in the face of violence or a disaster, and asthma was still a huge physical and psychological obstacle to overcome. But that noble reasoning was soon displaced by images in muscle magazines, Arnold flicks, and supplement labels.

The point is, if your exercise routines and fitness goals aren’t somehow based on knowing what you’re trying to accomplish and why, and are instead based on feelings that you’re just not good enough, not big enough, not fatless enough, not strong enough, then there is a good chance no amount of supplements will get you off your ass indefinitely. I had to cultivate more positive motivators to continue seeing results. There was some period of struggle, and sometimes there still is. Sometimes in life we have to do things we don’t necessarily feel like doing at the moment in order to obtain some greater goal. But it can and should be a goal that WE decide upon, that WE understand to be valuable, like greater endurance, power, or size within the rubric of sustained health. As long as our goals are whatever Optimum Nutrition, USPLabs, BSN, iSatori, or any other supplement company tells us, we’ll need more and more convincing….and they are only too happy to oblige, for 55 dollars a tub.

note: I’m not saying that supplements are totally useless, that the aforementioned companies are evil, or that I don’t use some supplements myself. Just that supplements should remain supplements, not staples, in any fitness lifestyle, and your sense of purpose and motivation should not be dependent on them.

Critique of “No Excuses”

Why do I take issue with No Excuses? It can be a well-intentioned sentiment, but all too often it serves the purpose of attempting to trivialize the complications of a person’s life. While a person may have made the decision, or at least the action, to accept various responsibilities into her life—job, spouse, children, bills, taxes, interests other than fitness, etc—it is not to her discredit that she puts these things before her own health or fitness. Nor is it to her discredit if she remains ignorant or confused about the components of simple everyday fitness. There is a massive system of dis- and misinformation in place, which, coupled with the unrealistic and harmful body images with which we are daily faced, leads to aspirations based on lies and navigated to with deliberately faulty compasses.

There are many good excuses to not being able to work out, but the best of all is probably that neither reasonable goals nor effective methods are understood by 9/10s of the population, including the oft-overlooked learned skill of incorporating fitness into one’s life with regularity. For those of us who are, for whatever reason, able to self-propel our fitness journeys, the gym is a place in which we regularly reinforce our self-esteem, our positive associations of ourselves: fitness, worthiness, sticktoitiveness. If and when we “fall off” a little bit, we know that we will get back on, because we have accepted that failure is relative, a part of success. But for the un- or under-initiated, the gym is often a place of absolute failure and negative associations: negative judgments, negative sensations, negative knowledge, so at variance with the comfort zones of the uninitiated as to be actually repellant.

While this “excuse” is in place, all others become subject to it, and then, even once it has been somewhat “grown out of,” a lack of comfort remains the prime dictator of whether this or that excuse will suddenly become valid. Only now, the discomfort that keeps a person from the iron is less with the gym and its methods and more with some other aspect of her life, often caused by one of the responsibilities I point to earlier. Because many people’s lives consist of more than one or two things—fitness and something else, say—but instead, three, four, five, or even more things, many of which are attended to compulsorily, they find it hard to dedicate adequate time to fitness to derive the types of results that we see depicted in magazines and movies.

For the folks in these images, there are truly “no excuses.” If they are a model, fitness is central to their lives, and if they are an actor in a Hollywood action movie, getting paid millions of dollars, fitness is MADE to be central. Personal trainers, nutritionists, life coaches, and “yes-men” of every kind surround them and urge them on to the inhuman edge of size and vascularity, pushing the envelope of physical prowess further and further with each year, each franchise, each sequel. The Hugh Jackmans, the Bradley Coopers, the Gerard Butlers, the Nomi Rapaces, et cetera, represent the life(style) “we all wish we had,” that of billboard-level fame and all the subservience and pampering that comes with that. It is a depiction of affluence which embodies our society’s ideal level of material and sensual fulfillment and its corresponding ideal level of physical perfection: absolute, constant, and beyond reproach. Perfect.

For those of us who aren’t movie stars or paid to be at 5% bodyfat all year around (which is not healthy), there is a reason we don’t live up to this ideal: it has nothing to do with our reality. Sure, if a person decides that fitness is the most important thing in her life, and it’s all she wants to do or think about, that’s fine. That’s better than fine; that’s great! But the reason personal trainers and nutritionists exist is that most people don’t think about fitness all that much and don’t want to have to think about it. They have other things on their minds.

I’m not advocating for the persistent ignorance of the population with regard to “how fitness works.” If gym and health classes in our school system were even remotely effective at teaching us anything useful, there wouldn’t be an obesity epidemic, heart disease epidemic, diabetes epidemic, and hypertension epidemic (not that school systems are the only culprit, of course). But people don’t get these illnesses intentionally. They don’t get unhealthy intentionally, they don’t miss workouts or stress-eat intentionally. They do so because they lack one of two things: adequate knowledge, or adequate self-esteem. They seek instant gratification, quick fixes, and painless solutions to problems that they are told on a regular basis are failings of character. Is it a failing of character to have mental pain? To have been body-shamed throughout childhood and adulthood? To have overbearing parents who created unhealthy attitudes to food? To believe that “good enough” and “healthy” only exist somewhere in the Jackman-esque vicinity of impossible? 

I say No. Any fitness professional who aims to help people transcend the excuses that place limits on their lives should try to understand why a certain excuse seems valid. Why is this keeping you from getting to the gym, or eating healthily? And that fitness professional should endeavor to undermine the validity of a false excuse and try to dismantle the excusatory mindset at its cause, until that point when concrete results are reached upon which to build a solid base of self-esteem and momentum. “Results” should not be limited to weight loss or strength gain, but should something as “simple” as reaching a weekly goal of workouts, successfully resisting a stress-eating urge, or reaching out for guidance in a moment of low motivation in the face of a difficult, trying task.

Yes, “mediocre effort produces mediocre results,” but remove the word “mediocre” and what do you get? “Effort produces results,” a principle that can be applied to suit the client’s reality, not some abstract ideal of what constitutes “mediocre.” Results of any kind represent a willpower and a conviction that was not there before. Only once this point has been reached, acknowledged, and surpassed can any novice client hope to make a lasting entree into fitness and to decide, based on her own growing level of comfort, knowledge, and belonging in the fitness world, where and to what degree she wants fitness to fit into her life, and what other habits and mindsets—perhaps some that formerly contributed to her vocabulary of excuses—she is ready to discard and replace with a healthy lifestyle and a more empowered, less excuse-prone approach to life in general.